BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The European Commission on July 19 approved seven voluntary schemes to ensure the sustainability of biofuels. The schemes include ISCC, Bonsucro EU, RTRS EU RED, RSB EU RED, 2BSvs, RSBA and Greenergy. This recognition applies directly in all 27 E.U. member states.

Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said: "We need to make sure that the entire biofuels' production and supply chain is sustainable. This is why we have set the highest sustainability standards in the world. The schemes recognized on the E.U. level are a good example of a transparent and reliable system which ensures that these high standards are met."

In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the E.U., whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time.

ePURE said it welcomes the introduction of the certification schemes for biofuels and urges policy-makers to apply equivalent sustainability criteria to other sectors.

“We welcome the introduction of the certification schemes for biofuels — it proves that Europe is now the global front-runner in promoting sustainable biofuels. If wider issues such as global deforestation are to be addressed effectively then the commission must apply binding criteria to crops used for other end uses, such as the food sector and solid biomass,” said ePURE Secretary General Rob Vierhout. “A truly level-playing field is the best guarantee to avoid potential indirect land use effects — we don’t need contentious ILUC science when we already have such practical solutions at our disposal.”

The E.U. has set an objective to achieve a minimum share of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020. Where biofuels are used to achieve this target, these must meet a set of sustainability requirements. Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognized by the commission.

When the commission has thoroughly checked a scheme against the sustainability requirements and is satisfied that it adequately covers the sustainability requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive, it will give its recognition for five years. Such a scheme verifies where and how the biofuels are produced. If the rules of the voluntary scheme have been met, the scheme can issue a certificate for that product.

After a detailed assessment made by the commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognized:

  • ISCC (German government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels.
  • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil).
  • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy-based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil).
  • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels).
  • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels).
  • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain).
  • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil).

The commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels.